A book that every craft lover should have.
Costume, Textiles and Jewellery of India: Traditions in Rajasthan, Vimala Bhandari, Prakash Books India (P) Ltd., price not stated.
INDIA, with its diversity of cultures and traditions, boasts of a plethora of costumes and age-old textiles, offering social and cultural statements, which are expressions of identity, region and community. Vandana Bhandari, after more than a decade of research and fieldwork in Rajasthan, documented her findings on women's clothing in Rajasthan, increasing the base to cover fascinating textile techniques, jewellery and clothing. A study such as this, in the author's words, "provides an index to the social, cultural, political, historical and economic aspects that shape people and its ethos".
The contemporary attire of the Rajasthanis has not changed dramatically over the years. There might be a deviation perhaps in the inclusion of present-day fabric, which is easier to care for rather than the hand-block printed, hand-dyed fabric, earlier the hallmark of beautiful Rajasthani textiles. A study of royal costumes tells you clearly about the hierarchy, and the kind of clothes worn at different levels and occasions.
A brief description of hereditary weaving skills explains the different kinds of handlooms produced in the region, like the gossamer kota doria produced in the village of Khaitoon. Dyeing techniques using natural dyes to tint the textiles in the brilliant hues one admires in this region are explained and bandhini or tie-dye, is illustrated. For anyone with a passion for textiles, this book provides adequate information, even for the lay reader, to try out these techniques at home.
Rajasthan is one of the most famous regions for hand block printing and, together with vegetable dyes, the beauty of the ajrak, dabu and warq (metallic) printing is truly incomparable. A traditional craft, it is passed on from parents to their offspring. A clear insight into the different kinds of embroideries is provided with the colourful visuals.
Clothes with surface ornamentation indeed convey a message. For instance, a girl wearing an odhni of a single colour announces that she has not yet reached puberty; a large circle of bandhini in one corner heralds her married status; a single circle in the centre of bright red shows she is a mother and as the colours dim it announces widowhood. Costumes also indicate the status of the women wearing them. The pagdi or the turban worn by the men indicates the denominational characteristics and the community they belong to. A saffron coloured safa shows he is a Baniya. Priests prefer red turbans and so do the Rabari tribes, and certain agricultural communities prefer block-printed padgis. Ornamented juthis and elaborate hairstyles complete the picture.
Rajasthan is a treasure trove for traditional jewellery, which is revered even today. It is not mere ornamentation, and to quote the author, "metaphysical beliefs are expressed through the metaphor of jewellery". And each piece of jewellery is fashioned accordingly for specific reasons, and these traditional ornaments have preserved their cultural identities, and they serve to differentiate each socio-ethnic group. Apart from silver, which is commonly worn, lac bangles, filigree jewellery like the theva work, kundan work, meenakari and enamelling form a part of the rich repertoire of the jewellery of Rajasthan.
In the state of Rajasthan, there are different communities, each having its own identity in relation to custom, dwelling, occupation and clothing. Scale drawings at the end of the book on the various traditional costumes would be very useful for design institutes and students to draw upon traditional themes.
Beautifully written, well researched and enriched by colourful visuals, this is yet another craft book which should take a position of pride in every craft lover's home and, of course, in libraries.
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